The cost of a divorce varies depending on the style of divorce you choose. From Collaborative Divorce to Mediation to Litigation, or even if you come up with the agreement completely on your own, there will always be documents that must be drafted to complete the divorce.  Drafting of the documents is going to take the same amount of time and cost, regardless of what process you choose, with rare exceptions.

Where the processes differ, the most is how you get to the final agreement and how much time it takes to get there. In Litigation, there will be a lot of back and forth between attorneys, gathering documents and statements. You may already know the information and it may feel redundant to you, but you do not have much control over this part of the process. The attorneys are going to pull all the information they want, so that they feel the prepared to best represent you in a courtroom.  Their role is also to dig for everything they can use to make your spouse look bad and you look good. You may also have several smaller court appearances (hearings) on the way to the full trial, each of which cost a lot of time and money to prepare for.

In Collaborative Divorce or Mediation, you and your spouse get to be involved in the decision-making in determining what documents are necessary. You also are working together, so you will not waste resources forcing the other one to track down documents. There are no court appearances in this process, which saves a lot of time and money. In these processes, the parties also often get to a point where they can make certain agreements on their own without the help of the attorneys and the professionals involved. This again helps the parties save money.

In Litigation, by contrast, the freedom for the couple to be involved in the decision making is rare. Litigation is set up in a way that leads to more fighting. There is no methodology for you to communicate, which often prevents parties from coming up with an agreement on their own. Any communication is done through the two attorneys only, which results in more legal fees for each person.


How do these issues factor into the costs? In whatever process you choose, you will be looking at roughly $2,000-$3,000 for the paperwork and filing fee.

From there, you can expect the average cost of a Litigated divorce—going all the way through trial—to start around $20,000 to $30,000 per person. That means your household could be spending $60,000 or more that year on the divorce process. Most attorneys will take a much smaller retainer than that (essentially a deposit), but the overall costs will be much higher than that initial retainer. The fees can go up from there depending on how many complex issues are involved, and how many assets, debts, and children issues there are to argue over, as well as the specific attorneys’ hourly rates.

For Collaborative or Mediation, we usually see numbers that are half of the litigation costs or lower (sometimes, much lower). The cost of a Collaborative Divorce or Mediation can vary greatly depending on how many sessions are needed versus what can be handled by the couple on their own without help. The best way to receive a cost estimate is to schedule an initial consultation with a professional. At that meeting, we can get a sense of the potential issues and how much professional support your case will need. In any event, you can generally expect the Collaborative Divorce or Mediation to be much less than a Litigated divorce.

Is it too late? If you have already started the litigation process by one or both of you filing documents with the courthouse, you can have the case dismissed or put on hold so that you can try Collaborative Divorce or Mediation. It is almost never too late to change over to another process if you both want something different.


Myah Kehoe, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Kehoe Moneyhun Law, LLC

319 SW Washington St., Ste. 614
Portland, OR  97204

2005 SE 192nd Ave., Ste. 200
Camas, WA  98607

Myah’s Website
Email Myah


I picked up a little book at my daughter’s house last week while riding out the ice storm and long power outage here in Oregon. The author was Thich Nhat Hanh, a beloved peacemaker. The title was How to Fight. *   How can that be??

Thay (his familiar name) points out when someone says something unkind, we want to retaliate right away. That’s where the fight begins. He reminds us that our usual responses create neural pathways in the brain, making these responses habits. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, we now know the brain has plasticity. We can change our minds, our brains and the way we feel by creating new habits and neural pathways. This is very important for those who want to have a Collaborative or mediated divorce. And new habits need to be established from the very beginning to keep the process peaceful, informative and productive.

How not to fight? We can begin to notice our habitual responses and change to more healthy habits. The good news is we all have the inner tools and we just have to cultivate them.  It’s an inside job. And like anything else worthwhile, it doesn’t mean change is easy.

The first step is to stop. Take a pause. Notice the thoughts racing for that comeback. Take a breath, or a few breaths, maybe slower and deeper than normal.  Settle down.  Bring yourself to calm before you respond.


This is easy to say and very hard to do, that is until you have practiced it and gotten past the inertia of the normal pattern.  It’s like stopping a train hurtling down the track of that very familiar pathway.  But that pathway has never made us happy in the long run, even though it might have felt satisfying in the moment.

What does it cost to take those few extra moments to break the momentum?  It can be as hard as jumping in front of a speeding train and putting our hand out to stop it.  It takes tremendous personal energy and strength at first, until it becomes more natural.

What do we miss by allowing a break before a comeback retaliation?  We’re likely afraid we might lose the fight, but what we gain is actually much more powerful and influential.  We give ourselves the time to think and to formulate an intelligent response.  That intelligence gives us more than hurling back a “smart” or angry comeback.  It’s from a deeper understanding, maybe ultimately from a place of wisdom where we recognize we are out of control.

What do we gain by the pause?  First, and perhaps foremost, we allow our nervous system to relax and balance.  This has a significant physiological effect on our well-being, our health and our longevity.  Every moment we allow ourselves to center and come to balance, we become more coherent physically, emotionally and rationally.  If we can do that, we have an effect on the other person which can bring them into coherence and balance and rationality.  Ultimately the other person will respect the strength and courage it takes to restrain and self-regulate when it’s necessary and not to remain driven by primitive impulse.

This is the “Fight.”  It takes all our strength to stop our response and have it go onto a different track.  For the engineer of a train, it’s called a “switch.”   When we are internally self-regulating it’s called a “choice point.” It’s a moment in time where we create an opportunity for ourselves.  We give ourselves a break, a moment to calm and then think of the better response.  Normally that response is a question rather than a statement.  The question comes from curiosity to try to understand the other person and the source of their emotional state, need or opinion.  This is a reflection which causes them to start to notice what’s going on within themselves and to see and make friends with their inner world.

How to FightThay uses the analogy of wanting to make a cold room warmer.  It doesn’t happen by the warm air fighting the cold air to push it out.  Just by radiating warm air into the room it becomes warm.  This was a very apt analogy as my husband, and I had huddled in our cold apartment.  We wanted to push the cold air out, but the ultimate answer was to be in the presence of my daughter’s wood stove which radiated soft heat into their living room.

Over the years we professionals at Bridges have looked for ways to guide families through the process of restructuring with peace and understanding.  Peace is possible.  It begins inside each of us.  We will do our best to do that for ourselves so we can help you get there too.


*How to Fight by Thich Nhat Hanh (Parallax Press, 2017)